DuPont to split into three as CEO Breen steps back

The company will separate its electronics and water units through tax-free transactions. — Reuters

NEW YORK: DuPont de Nemours Inc plans to split into three publicly traded companies, joining a list of industrial conglomerates seeking to boost returns by breaking into smaller, more focused businesses.

The company will separate its electronics and water units through tax-free transactions, DuPont announced Wednesday in a statement. The remaining operations will be focused on industries such as biopharma and medical devices, with products including Tyvek and Kevlar.

The announcement follows a parade of corporate icons such as Johnson & Johnson, United Technologies, Danaher Corp and General Electric Co (GE) that have broken up in recent years in bids to create additional value for shareholders.

Many traditional industrial conglomerates are finding fewer benefits from synergies such as pooled fixed costs, said Barry Cross, a professor and assistant dean at the Queen’s University Smith School of Business.

“They are loose collections of parts that don’t always make sense to keep together any more,” said Cross, who once worked at DuPont but has no current connection with the company. Splitting up “can provide more value with focused leadership teams and fewer distractions from brother and sister units,” he said.

Chief executive officer Ed Breen, who returned to the role in 2020, will step down June 1, the company said. He will retain the role of executive chairman of the remaining company while chief financial officer Lori Koch assumes the chief executive’s post.

Splitting apart will give each new company “greater flexibility to pursue their own focused growth strategies, including portfolio enhancing mergers and acquisitions (M&A),” Breen said in the statement.

The breakup continues DuPont’s lengthy history of dealmaking and portfolio reshaping. About a decade ago, the company agreed to merge with Dow Chemical and subsequently spun off some businesses. DuPont has also been exploring divestitures recently and last year agreed to sell a controlling stake in Delrin for US$1.8bil.

Once the latest split is complete, the remaining company will be the largest piece, responsible for about US$6.6bil of DuPont’s 2023 sales. The electronics business to be spun off had revenue of US$4bil last year while the water unit accounted for US$1.5bil, according to DuPont.

DuPont shares rose 5.3% in extended trading at 6:16pm in New York. The stock had gained about 2% this year through Wednesday’s close, giving the company a market value of roughly US$33bil.

Breen earlier engineered multiple breakups while chief executive of Tyco International: a 2007 deal that created TE Connectivity and Covidien, and a later one to divide the remaining company into three businesses.

GE became the latest example of a blue chip industrial company seeking to create value by breaking up. The manufacturing giant spun off its energy-related businesses in April after the early 2023 separation of its health-care unit. Shares of GE, which is now principally a maker of jet engines, have soared roughly 58% this year through Wednesday’s close.

DuPont expects to complete the separations within 18 to 24 months, subject to shareholder vote and regulatory approvals. The company on Wednesday also reaffirmed its second-quarter outlook and full-year financial guidance.

Centerview Partners LLC and Goldman Sachs are serving as DuPont’s financial advisers, while Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP is its legal counsel. — Bloomberg

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